A normal, healthy heart is well-equipped to manage the changes that occur in pregnancy. It rises to the occasion – pumping more blood to the uterus, increasing heart rate as needed.

During pregnancy, any activity that increases heart rate does carry more of an impact than it would regularly. Still, it’s completely healthy for women to pursue active lifestyles during those nine months. Take note of any abnormal symptoms, and talk to your OB/GYN if you’re aware of any existing heart conditions. 

Peripartum cardiomyopathy, also known as postpartum cardiomyopathy, is an example of a heart condition that develops due to pregnancy. It’s quite rare, but the cardiologists at Catholic Health believe the more informed patients are, the more confident you will be having important conversations with your doctor. 


What Is Peripartum Cardiomyopathy? 

“Though uncommon, peripartum cardiomyopathy is a generalized weakness of the heart muscle that happens in that final month leading up to delivery, and can occur up to five months post-delivery without other cause. 

This condition is diagnosed through an echocardiogram (EKG), or an ultrasound of the heart to measure heart function. 

In patients with peripartum cardiomyopathy, the degree of severity does not necessarily indicate the degree of recovery. However, with appropriate treatment, most patients have recovery of their heart function within six months. Treatment options include different medications that help the heart work more efficiently — by reducing fluid retention, improving blood pumping ability.” 

Emily C Battaglia, MD

Cardiologist , Sisters Hospital Cardiology Center

What Are Symptoms of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?

One reason this condition can be so alarming is that its symptoms are not incredibly telling. Onset so late in pregnancy is difficult due to the fact that signs may masquerade as normal pregnancy side effects. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling like the heart is racing or skipping beats
  • Shortness of breath when laying down
  • Swollen ankles
  • Swelling of the neck veins
  • Sometimes, low blood pressure

Women who experience peripartum cardiomyopathy do not efficiently pump blood to their vital organs. The goal in a cardiologist’s treatment plan is to avoid the buildup of extra fluid in the lungs. 

Additional Pregnancies After Peripartum Cardiomyopathy 

The decision to birth additional children should be guided by the patient’s cardiologist and OB/GYN. If heart function does not return to normal, additional pregnancies are not recommended, as this may cause further heart damage. 

Even with a full recovery, there’s still a risk that this will recur in ensuing pregnancies. However, additional pregnancies may possibly be attempted with close monitoring of the heart. 

Find a Cardiologist Near You
Call (716) 706-2113

Find a Cardiologist Near You
Call (716) 706-2113